Development of a Bioenergetics Model for Appalachian Brook Trout

In many Appalachian headwater streams brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are the only fish species present. Land use practices or global warming can have a significant effect on the production and survival of brook trout in these streams. Managers must be able to evaluate the potential impact of thermal changes upon these streams and bioenergetics models represent a valuable tool in this effort. Here we present a bioenergetics model for brook trout and conduct a laboratory validation of the model. Model validation experiments showed the model to adequately predict the growth, final weight, and consumption of fish in the experiments. Growth and final weight were estimated within -1.4% (not significantly different than 0) and consumption was slightly underestimated, within -19.7% (± 7.5%) of observed values. Scope for growth from the bioenergetics model suggests that given unlimited food, growth of brook trout may be possible over the range of environmental temperatures supporting brook trout. However, under more restricted rations typical of Appalachian headwater streams (20% ad libitum) only modest growth is possible between 3.5 and 20C. These growth restrictions may have serious implications for thermal alterations upon Appalachian brook trout and may suggest that energetically, over winter may be a critical time for these fish.

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